NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Cutting beds, services and staff — those are three proposals to cut costs at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.

Some residents worry this could mean life or death for patients in the area.

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St. John’s Episcopal Hospital is the only hospital on the peninsula, serving the Rockaways and Five Towns community.

“This is an underserved, underserviced community,” said Felicia Johnson, with Queens Community Board 14.

The 257-bed facility took on the first Queens COVID-19 patient last year and became so inundated with infected patients, they had to create more beds.

“A year later, this is the thank you, saying that we don’t need you anymore,” registered nurse Iona Folkes told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.

The state health department and a consulting firm presented hospital administrators with several cost cutting options. The most drastic would take the hospital down to 15 beds.

Another option would get rid of obstetrics and limit beds. The number of staff, currently more than 1,000, would be cut down.

Folkes has been a nurse at the hospital for almost 30 years.

“Yes, we are facing a crisis with the budget, with the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean your poorest of communities deserve any less. Our zip code should not dictate the quality of health care they receive,” she said.

“They’re giving us a death sentence,” Johnson said. “What if we have another pandemic? What if something else comes along? What if we have another natural disaster, like a Superstorm Sandy?”

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The mayor says he’s against the proposals.

“The Rockaways has taken it on the chin for generations,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The people of Rockaways need more health care, not less.”

Community members and other local lawmakers are vowing to fight any cuts.

“We rallied in 2012 when they were closing Peninsula Hospital, and we all said as a community here in Rockaway that one hospital, meaning St. John’s, was not enough,” said City Council candidate Mike Scala.

The state Department of Health released the following statement —

“The Department of Health has been working with the management of St. John’s Episcopal for several years in an effort to achieve improved health outcomes and access in the Far Rockaways. In 2019, St. John’s Episcopal entered into an agreement with Mount Sinai South Nassau to jointly explore how they could achieve this objective. As part of that process, Mount Sinai selected and hired a healthcare advisory firm called TonyKorf Partners to help develop strategic options. The Department has not required SJE to implement any of these models, and the Board of SJE would have to grant approval to do so.

The Department looks forward to working with the leadership of St. John’s Episcopal, together with the workers, elected officials and other stakeholders, in reviewing these options, among others, to find a solution that will work for all parties. In the meantime, the State is continuing to provide substantial operating support to St. John’s Episcopal.

The State’s operating support for St. John’s Episcopal has increased by 50% since 2019 and is now total $60 million annually. The State’s operating support for all safety net hospitals has nearly doubled since 2019 and is expected to exceed $1 billion in the State’s next fiscal year.”


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CBS2 also reached out to the consulting company ToneyKorf Partners, LLC, but did not hear back.

Alice Gainer